UK must develop CCS or lose competitive advantage ” report

Analysis compiled by the UK Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Association contends that the country needs to invest in CCS technology or lose a significant competitive advantage.

However a leading academic told Power Engineering International that despite the relevance of CCS to tackling climate change, it may prove to be difficult for Europe to replicate any success that comes out of highly anticipated pilot projects about to go live in the US.

The study says that investment will have a positive impact on household energy bills in the UK potentially slashing them by à‚£82 a year if the government boosted carbon capturing equipment on power plants instead of relying on offshore wind to tackle climate change.

The cost savings would arise because without CCS, low-carbon electricity generation would have to be achieved by ramping up offshore wind farms, a relatively expensive form of renewable energy, according to the CCSA.

Britain is one of the best areas in the world to exploit CCS technology, Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary told the FT, pointing out that depleted North Sea gas- and oilfields are ideal for storing captured gases.
“But without stronger government backing, the UK risks losing its competitive advantage and all the jobs and economic activity that CCS could bring,” she said.

CCS has been the subject of over $25bn in investments by governments over the last six years. The process is so expensive that it can double the cost of building a power plant.

The industry has high hopes for 2014 as the first two CCS installations on a power station are due to come online.

Both are coal plants in North America: the Boundary Dam project in Saskatchewan, Canada, and the Kemper County plant in Mississippi, and each has benefited from substantial government support.

In Europe, the industry has stagnated due to economic downturn, despite funding competitions.

The study also predicted that between 15,000 to 30,000 building jobs could be created by 2030. These job numbers would decline once CCS plants were built, but there would still be employment benefits from operating and maintaining the schemes, they add.

Meanwhile Cambridge University’s Dr David Reiner, a leading CCS researcher, while not disagreeing about the positive input CCS can have was keen to emphasise to Power Engineering International that the technology was part of a solution in tandem with other power generation sources.

“There is no magic bullet — we are essentially dealing with a range of relatively high cost options including nuclear power, offshore wind and CCS, which will need to be complemented by dramatic improvements in energy efficiency and conservation.”

The Cambridge University Senior Lecturer in Technology Policy has advised government, industry and non-governmental organisations on energy and environmental policy, with a particular emphasis on the politics of climate change and the social acceptability of carbon dioxide capture and storage technologies. He says energy bills will inevitably rise as a result of implementing policy aimed at reducing emissions.

“So the only way to keep prices down is to explore the full range of options and to adopt a strategic approach with regard to technologies such as CCS, which by their nature require very significant investments.”

Dr Reiner also argued that projects going online in the US may not necessarily provide impetus for a turnaround in fortunes for the technology in Europe.

“Europe is in a difficult situation on the first CCS projects relative to North America because CCS projects in the US and Canada will be able to use the captured CO2 for enhanced oil recovery, which has an economic value and helps makes these projects viable.”

“There are legitimate concerns over the competitiveness impacts of rising energy prices and we are currently seeing a public and political backlash over rising energy prices, but if we are to take climate change seriously then we need to be investing, and learning, across all major low-carbon options.”
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